Tarifa – in between Europe and Africa

Personal, Travel

Last month I returned to Tarifa for a couple of days, where I have already ventured out a while ago, in search of its (pirate) treasures. Also, this time I managed to rent out a beautiful rural apartment in El Pozuelo, a nearby village which is close enough to the historical old town, and sufficiently far away from the civilization, to wake up with the sound of bird songs, and go to sleep hearing the flapping wings of some larger birds like egrets, or cranes.

On my way to the rural apartment, I already met a friendly, fellow birdwatcher who helped me spot a beautiful pair of sanderlings foraging in La Jara river. During this 3,5 km walk I then repeated at least twice a day, I would always keep my camera ready for action, just in case I saw a worthwhile situation to document. October is still such a great month to witness different migration routes in this extraordinary place, just 14 km away from the African shore.

During my stay there were numerous goldfinches gatherings around the Atlantic meadow, before they passed the Gibraltar Strait in search of the warmer temperature, food and water in Africa. Although this bird species is considered an all-year resident in Spain, I could witness that some goldfinch flocks dare to take the passage. Similarly to some other passerines and larks.

I worked pretty intensely during the week and in order to recharge after / before work, I did long hike trails along the shores of the Gibraltar Strait, a magical place where one can see and hear the boats passing by, and look ahead to spot Tanger and Ceuta on the other side. If you are lucky, you can even spot a dolphin or a whale, while for them this passage is often deadly, due to a large number of vessels.

And I realized how the natural landscape always impresses me, especially in the morning and in the evening, when the animals can be seen in the most active situations. Here is a flock of cattle egrets collaborating with the Iberian cow herd. Sometimes, starlings would join them.

It looked like as if, for each cow there was about 2-3 egrets commensals and they would closely mimic each other. I have never seen egrets as close, which gave me a great opportunity to take some very detailed pictures while observing that co-op in real time.

Tarifa is not only a natural paradise (in danger!), but also one of the most strategic locations in Europe, highlighted by the presence of the bunkers and maritime towers from the distant past.

Los Lances lagoon at this time of the year is a fascinating birdwatching site with hundreds of waders of different sizes cohabiting. The lagoon commensals specifically benefit from tiny shrimp species, a local specialty of the Cadiz cuisine for humans, too.

I could speak so much about the magical sunrises in Malaga, and sunsets in Cadiz – that is probably why I am spending so much time in between these both locations, thanks to the benefits of remote working from different parts of Spain. Practically, you can wake up in Malaga and go to sleep in Cadiz, which would be a dream come true.

Finally, I visited La Isla de las Palomas (also known as the Island of Tarifa) thanks to the Andalucian Bird Society field trip. Currently, this Southernmost Continental Europe peninsula remains as a military object and is only subject to Guardia Civil’s admission. Our guide for the day, Javier, identified three types of migratory bird routes: from Europe to Africa (passerines, goldfinches, kites and even a stunning Eurasian Black Vulture), from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean (Balearic Sheawaters, Gannets, Puffins), and vice versa (Cory’s Shearwaters – known to me so well from Ilha das Flores).

The day passed by with some stunning sightings (e.g. mom and baby gannet making their way to the Mediterranean). To top this fantastic trip up, in the afternoon, before leaving to the next stop in Cadiz, I could witness a mysterious haze which overtook Tarifa for a few hours, turning it into a movie scenery, with a very original soundtrack of the ship horns.

Tarifa treasures

Travel

September is one of my favourite months in Spain. Not only loud children come back to school and create less havoc everywhere, but also temperatures drop to a perfect 28-30 Celcius degrees, making it a perfect timing for staying at the beach, biking and exploring the nearby treasures. In this blog post I want to write a little bit about my escape to the Southernmost tip of Spain at the Gibraltar Strait: Tarifa.

Even though the summer has been marked heavily by COVID-19 and the second wave, I try to resume my usual activities: hiking, staying in the nature and exploring the nearby landscapes of Andalucia. Actually, I have enjoyed less tourists and crowds in the region, making it more accessible and enjoyable for the local residents.

I spent just a few days in Tarifa, staying in a small village of Pozuelo, about 3,5 kms walking next to a natural reservoir, formed by the Ocean tides and creeks coming from the nearby hills. I chose it because of the remote feeling, listening mostly to the migrating birds and the wind, famous among the surfers from all over the place.

Tarifa is famous for its impecably white, sand beaches and watersports. Playa de los Lances is one of the broadest and most spectacular ones, from my humble beachtesting perspective.

There are still some bunker remains and a lot of former battery stations all over Tarifa – a literal entry point to the Iberian Peninsula. Nowadays the coast of Cadiz is also one of the entry for the migrants from all the North Africa, and Spain being one of the countries welcoming the biggest number of refugees, after all.

War-torn, Moorish and postcolonial past is present almost at almost every step of the little town of Tarifa. Also, the town blossoms with a lot of green squares and hidden gardens, thanks to the horticultural thought of the Moorish predecessors.

This summer has been strange and the town seemed half-empty, half-crowded at the same time, as only some of the restaurants and shops opened during pandemic, creating a congestion of visitors. This is why I haven’t spent too much time in the town itself, and preferred observing the life of birds, bugs and kites outside of Tarifa. Each year the town even hosts a birdwatching series of events, welcoming thousands of birds migrating between the European and African continent.

I found peace and rest after a very intense period of work at home this year, not to mentioned confinement, walking miles every day and enjoying being outside. The local cuisine consisting of mostly 0 km food, such as tuna and its parts in various combinations and plethora of fish was delicious and I can’t wait to return to this paradise sometime soon.